WASHINGTON DC —
Vietnamese human rights lawyers and other activists say the sudden death of the country's deputy minister of public security, Pham Quy Ngo, came as a shock to many but also leaves allegations of corruption unanswered.
Ngo, who will be given the funeral of a high-ranking official, died Tuesday after a reported battle with liver cancer.
Ngo died one day after a senior official proposed that he be suspended in connection with the investigation of his activities. He previously had denied the allegations raised against him.
News of his illness leaked last month after Duong Chi Dung, a disgraced ex-chairman of a state-owned shipping corporation, said he learned from Ngo that he was targeted for prosecution. With that advance knowledge, Dung said, he was able to flee Vietnam.
The former shipping executive was extradited later from Cambodia, tried and sentenced to death for embezzlement. He testified that he had paid more than $1.5 million in bribes to Ngo.
One of Dung's lawyers, Tran Dinh Trien, told VOA's Vietnamese service that a probe of Ngo's alleged bribe-taking should go ahead despite his death.
"Everyone is equal before the law," the lawyer said. "The state should still carry on the investigation and make public all the findings. Otherwise, people will lose trust in the [Communist] party and the state."
Before his death, Ngo disputed Dung's confession, telling the online newspaper VnExpress the allegations against him were lies.
Pham Chi Dung, an analyst and former security official in Vietnam, said the investigation of Ngo is over following his death.
"The leaking state secrets legal case will be closed. ... Ngo's death will also affect the investigation process of the high-profile corruption case of bank co-founder Nguyen Duc Kien," he said. "Kien will likely receive a life sentence, but that's it, his case will be closed right there."
Vietnamese leaders have made anti-corruption a top priority as the country struggles against what non-governmental organizations see as a rampant and serious problem.
(This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese service.)